Academic Freedom and the Status of the Religiously Affiliated University

Eugene H. Bramhall & Ronald Z. Aherns, Academic Freedom and the Status of the Religiously Affiliated University, 37 Gonz. L. Rev. 227 (2002).

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Academic freedom is essential to a religiously affiliated university’s effort to maintain a scholarly environment. Unlimited academic freedom, however, can diminish a sectarian university’s religious nature by encouraging the advocacy of some ideas which undermine the university community’s religious devotion. In order to maintain its dual religious and academic character, a religious university must carefully balance its need to protect its faith-based environment with its need to foster a climate of free expression. Severely limited academic freedom can threaten a university’s educational environment; unbridled academic freedom can threaten a religious university’s spiritual environment. Some religiously affiliated universities have successfully balanced these two competing objectives by their adoption of academic freedom policies that recognize a general right to free scholarly expression and enumerate narrow categories of speech harmful that are to the university, which professors should avoid.

Some in the academy, notably some members of the American Association of University Professors (“AAUP”), have shown intolerance to religious organizations by summarily dismissing these policies. To these individuals, all religious limitations of academic freedom, however slight, affect an institution’s validity as a center of learning. According to this view, sectarian institutions that limit speech to protect a religious identity do not deserve to be designated “universities” or “seats of higher learning.”The AAUP and its adherents believe an institution that bars speech merits nothing more than the less prestigious titles of “proprietary institution” or “seminary.”‘ This rigid position recognizes no middle ground-either an institution allows limitless expression or it warrants expulsion from the academy. . . . Read More

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